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January 18, 2011

Graeme McDowell


RODDY WILLIAMS: Graeme, thanks very much for coming in and joining us. Welcome to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. You must be feeling pretty good about your game at the moment. You had a pretty impressive week or two ago.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, Christmas kind of came and went pretty quickly. I was in Hawai'i there a couple of weeks ago.
Yeah, got off to a great start for the 2011 season, obviously some new equipment in the bag and some small changes but thankfully business was resumed as we left off in 2010. Game feels fantastic, feel really good. Just played a few holes out there today and having a look at the slightly new version of this golf course with some small changes off the tee. Fairways are very narrow and the rough is very thick.
It's looking like a really great test this week. So always a great place to come here to Abu Dhabi.
RODDY WILLIAMS: A real buzz about the place, European Tour event, first big event of the year.
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, they put a great field together. To have as many top players as they have this week, it's just a quality field, quality golf course and should be a great week.
Always produces a great winner here. Just got to look down the five, six years; always quality, quality players win here. Not an event I've played well in here. I haven't really performed all that well here in the past but typically coming in off five, six, seven weeks off, a little different this year, having played two weeks ago, I'm feeling a hell of a lot sharper.
Some tweaks to the golf course off the tee suit my game. It's much less about driving the ball long here. It's much more of an emphasis on accuracy off the tee. So hopefully will play into my hands more than it has years gone by at this golf course.

Q. Can you just talk to us a little bit about what you expect from José Maria Olazábal as Ryder Cup Captain?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, I've had the pleasure of being in team rooms with José the last two Ryder Cups now. You know, he was a big part of the reason why I played so well at Valhalla a few years ago. He kind of took me under his wing that week. A couple of the big highlights of Valhalla in the team room were speeches that José made. He's a very honest, very emotional, very open guy. I got to know him very well that week, and you know, he's just a legend regards his playing capabilities and the kind of person that he is, as well.
So I think he's going to be a great Ryder Cup Captain. He's a perfect captain for the states. He's loved all over the world, and obviously two-time Masters Champion. I think he's going to be a great talisman for the European Ryder Cup Team.
Certainly I'll be desperate to be part of that team room because I know he'll bring -- he'll inspire and he will motivate and he will bring a lot of passion and emotion to the team.
So I think he's going to be a fantastic captain, and probably the worst-kept secret in golf was that he was going to take the captaincy. I'm sure it's great to be able to talk about it now. He's going to be great.

Q. Can you just elaborate on what you said in your opening remarks about the emphasis now on accuracy here? Does it make it more of a level playing field for the finesse side of the game?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, I'd be lying if I said that distance still wasn't a key around this golf course. You've just now got to be long and straight. The rough is quite thick. I threw a few balls into the rough out there. I don't care how strong you are, it's pretty penal. This golf course still requires -- the fairways are quite soft this afternoon there. But you know, they have bunkered half a dozen fairways out there. They have kind of put little target bunkers out there which have given you a lot more definition off the tee, as well.
The fairways don't feel wide. That first fairway is probably no more than 15 to 20 paces wide. They really let the rough go in. They have graded it nicely. It just looks a little tighter off the tee to me. Like I say, haven't played a huge amount of rounds around this golf course. I typically have had Saturday and Sunday off here (chuckling).
It looks great, though. It's in great condition. Like I say, some fairway bunkers, they really kind of help define the golf course, and like I say, a real premium on accuracy off the tee. A few new tee boxes with some extra yardage on some holes, but in the right places. They have not really taken long holes and made them longer thank God. They have generally -- the sixth hole is a short par 4 that they have made into a pretty decent par 4 now, and they have made some really good changes. Really smart, good course architecture.

Q. You played Yas yesterday and you have already said that this is a special course and Saadiyat is also very highly rated. Can you think of many places that are growing faster for golf than Abu Dhabi?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Golf in the Middle East seems to be going strength-to-strength. I'm involved have the Al Naboodah Group which seems to be a big part of why golf is growing in the Middle East as it is. We had the day yesterday at Yas Golf Links. I haven't played Saadiyat yet. I've heard good things about it.
Certainly this is a part of the world we are spending an increasing amount of time in, and it's great to come back every year and see how the city has grown and seeing the changes around here. You know, we certainly enjoyed coming back here. We get very well looked after by the tournament. The Emirates Palace, it's a tough week to stay there, really. We get very well looked after. This golf course has gone from strength-to-strength, and it sounds like the tournament is only going to get better.

Q. Is there any specific reason why you haven't played particularly well this weekend, and does that mean that you have a point to prove coming in?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Like I mentioned, probably the fact that I don't come into this tournament typically very sharp, I've normally had a pretty pronged period off. You kind of come out here and you're using this week to get your game ready really.
I typically come out to Dubai a few days before this event and really start the year here. But you know, different scenario this year in that I'm feeling reasonably sharp. I feel like in many ways, guys are starting their season and in many ways I feel like I'm kind of ending a mini-season if you like, busy as I was end of last year and being in Hawai'i there the first week in January.
I'm actually going to take a little bit of time off after this event. I'm taking four weeks off and preparing myself for a busy spring and summer really. So I feel like I'm just continuing kind of where 2010 finished off, and I'm feeling very sharp with my game, as opposed to feeling rusty really normally coming into this tournament.

Q. Is it that easy to just change your clubs overnight and shoot 62 in the first week that you are using your new clubs?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Well, you know, I think it's a hell of a lot easier to change equipment than it was ten years ago. I think manufacturers are spending millions in research and development. So there's not too many golf equipment companies out there that are producing inferior equipment.
Going with Srixon, one of the key components is the golf ball. They make a great golf ball, and it's been an easy transition for me using a ball that is very, very good. The rest of the stuff is pretty easy to do. They are making great irons and I believe the best wedges in the world.
It was not a hard transition for me to make. A couple weeks ago in Hawai'i, I felt I was a bit under the microscope; of course people are asking questions why off the back of a great 2010, why would I want to change something as big as my equipment.
I had confidence. I knew was I was leaving one great company and going to another great company. It really wasn't a problem. Of course, the weekend in Hawai'i kind of helped answer the questions and gave me a lot of confidence in the stuff that I have in my bag right now.

Q. Back to Ollie at Valhalla. Can you share some details of exactly what he was saying in the team room? And secondly, with him being a Masters Champion, you've already said how the Americans love him. Do you think that will help the team and with the respect he'll get from the American crowds?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, for sure. Talking about how he was in the team room, I remember when the singles draw came out on Saturday evening. We were all sitting around the golf club just going over the singles draw, and José got up and made a bit of a speech and just talked, he was just very emotional. He was kind of feeling empathy with us as to how we were feeling the night before the singles in The Ryder Cup.
He's played many Ryder Cups and you could just see it hurt him to be injured the way he was and to be missing out on his golf, and you could just see the raw emotion. Obviously the days he had spent out there with Seve and just how much The Ryder Cup meant to him really. There was barely a dry eye in the room because you could feel the emotion coming out of the guy.
I think he was pretty teary-eyed the singles day at Celtic Manor. There was a great moment photo with him and Seve in the locker room and he got a little emotional about it. He really conveyed to us what The Ryder Cup meant to him. Like I say, you could feel how genuine he was about that.
What was the second part of your question?

Q. With Ollie being the Masters Champion, how that will affect the way the crowd respect him?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, obviously the media attention in the States and the way the crowds interact with captains, I think it's important that you have a captain who -- I think if you look back, maybe Monty might have had a tough time being a captain in the States, obviously with his history in the States and near misses in Majors, etc.
When you have a captain like Ollie who has won two Major Championships in U.S. soil, that helps get on better with everyone really. Hopefully the media and the crowds will embrace him and he's a pretty tough guy to dislike. He's awesome and he's great for the game. Like I say, I hope to be in that team room.

Q. He's looking now to actually just have two picks rather than three. Have you heard that and what would be your thoughts on that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Interesting. I mean, it's a tough one. The Ryder Cup selection process is difficult. You look back at this year and you wonder, is the system flawed? No. 9 golfer in the world couldn't get on the team.
There's always two sides to the story. I think the three picks, it's difficult with guys playing on both sides of the Atlantic, as well. Obviously I'm a guy who is going to play a little bit more on the PGA Tour this year. Should the selection process kind of favour the guys who play more golf on The European Tour, who knows.
I think what we need is the 12 best European players that we can have available for that week, and you know -- it should really be the captain's decision. Monty wanted three picks and he got three picks. If José feels like he only wants two, he should have two. I think the captain should have a big influence. No selection process is perfect. Monty had three picks and the ninth best player in the world didn't get picked.
Does he need four picks? He only wants two picks. I'm sure he has his reasons, and like I say, no selection process is perfect.

Q. Taking a step further, suggesting turning the tables, Ian was saying the European points table should take precedence over the European ranking table. What are your views on that?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Again, that's kind of putting more emphasis on The European Tour. It's an interesting debate. You know, I kind of agree a little bit. I think the European Ryder Cup Team, The European Tour puts so much into The Ryder Cup; that perhaps the emphasis should be on The European Tour. I think guys should show a commitment to this tour and be rewarded accordingly I guess.
But it's a difficult one. Like I say, you want the 12 best players. Golf is such a global game right now, whether you're a European Tour player full time or not, or you're a PGA Tour member or a dual member, you're still going to play the majors and WGCs and the best events around the world and they are World Ranking-dominated. It's a difficult debate. I'm not sure where I stand.

Q. And the controversy at the PGA Championship --
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, guys coming home and playing the last two events and chasing it, etc., etc.

Q. This would be putting a stop to that sort of controversy.
GRAEME McDOWELL: It's an interesting one. Guys are very selfish about their schedules because they have to be. They are trying to play the best golf they can week-in, week-out, and then the FedEx Playoffs, obviously clashing with the last two or three qualifying events in Europe. It's difficult.
The Ryder Cup means more to certain -- means more to guys like Ian Poulter and myself than it does maybe to guys that are focussed on winning Majors and FedEx Playoffs and Race to Dubai -- 0everyone has their priorities. Not everyone loves The Ryder Cup as much as Ian does and embraces it maybe like him. Everyone has their goals and obviously it boils down to what it is you want the most.
Of course we want to play Ryder Cups, but you're not going to jeopardise your schedule to try and get on the team I guess. Obviously the Playoffs, guys work hard to get in there and if they don't play their way on to the team, are they going to run home to Europe to try to chase it? It's a difficult dilemma.

Q. Great year, 2010, and it ended with a flurry of awards and recognition. I wonder how that affects you individually and how that impacts on your golf. What do you take from the success you had in 2010 to make you even better in 2011, and is it a distraction being fated in the way that you have been?
GRAEME McDOWELL: You know, it was a great end of the year, and like you say, the accolades and awards, I didn't realise there were that many awards out there. It was incredible and great to win so many great things, my MBE and all kind of crazy stuff. Just kind of very surreal stuff, winning awards that like I say didn't even know existed.
But what do I take away from 2010? Mainly just confidence and momentum and belief in myself really. Expectations are something I've talked about a lot. You know, you can't expect to play well, just because I've had the season I've had, doesn't give me any God-given right to go out and shoot 66 every day. It's important that I keep it real and keep working hard on my game.
One of the goals that I have for 2011 is to keep working hard and keep the work ethic up and keep working on the things that I did to get me to where I am right now, and of course, not take the game for granted. Certainly not get sucked in by other people's expectations of me, either.
So, it's been great. It's been a great year. Looking forward to having a good week this week, putting the feet up for a few weeks and getting ready for the spring and the summer and another great season hopefully. Like I say, just trying to use the confidence and the belief that I gained from last year. That's really all I can take away. It's definitely not a free pass for low numbers every day.

Q. What you were saying there and what you were saying about the golf course, what you see on the golf course now, how much of it would be, it's in the eye of the beholder in that Major Champion Graeme McDowell now looks at a golf course differently as opposed to seeing what's in a golf course and is unlikely from now on to be unintimidated on golf courses or think he's going to play badly on bad golf courses does. That come into the equation?
GRAEME McDOWELL: I feel like I'm looking at golf courses the same way. I'm pretty analytical when it comes to breaking a course down. I feel like I have one of the best caddies in the world on the bag. We are pretty analytical when it comes to getting our strategy and breaking a golf course down and finding out where we can be aggressive and use our strengths really.
When I look at a golf course like this, like I say, a golf course where I have not played well in the past, I'm looking to see how the changes suit me. I'm hoping I'm not being wishful thinking and thinking the changes that play into my hands. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway. I'm going to try to play as well as I can and I feel like if I can play well, I can compete.
I certainly don't feel like because of the 2010 and the fact that I'm Major Champion now doesn't make hard golf courses easy, that's for sure.

Q. Another thing, of course, as well this, week, you can go up to No. 3 unprecedented, how big is that for you?
GRAEME McDOWELL: Yeah, the World Rankings are very important, of course. I'm quite -- when I look at the World Rankings, I guess I'm trying to be realistic about it and realise that my World Ranking right now reflects the last seven months of golf I've played really. If I can finish the 2011 season Top-5 in the world, I'll start to believe I'm a Top-5 in the world player.
I've got some consolidation to do. I want to continue to be the best player I can be, and it's great. It's pretty fun to open the World Rankings and see yourself up there. It's something you've always dreamed of, but like I say, I feel like I have a lot of work to do. It's one thing getting there and maintaining and hoping to keep climbing is another thing.

Q. To wrap it up, the four major champions are here, have you bumped into each other on the range? Are you going to sit down and have a special dinner together as the four major champions, as something that may become a tradition?
GRAEME McDOWELL: We had a little boat ride together this morning. We were on the Abu Dhabi Volvo around the world race this morning. That was kind of fun having everyone there. It says a lot for the field this week, having the four major champions here, and I think four of the world's Top-5 and seven of the world's Top-10. It's pretty cool and it's pretty great to be here and have a field like that. I don't think we'll be out for dinner and share Major Champion stories, but it's great to have them all here obviously.
RODDY WILLIAMS: On that note, Graeme, thanks very much and good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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